Content Marketing
8 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Program

8 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Program

September 1, 2021
5 min read

Does your content marketing program deliver the results you are hoping for? Here’s the scenario we see all too often…

Your competitors all have a content marketing program, so maybe that’s why you decides to launch one too. Maybe you rushed to develop your content marketing strategy, copying everything your competitors are doing.

Then you ask one of your marketing managers to take on the content marketer role to drive the program. Your team creates 20 blog posts and promote on all your social channels, and you wait for your audience to read and share with their networks and for quality leads to start coming in.

But days and weeks passed, and you’ve only gotten 100 reads. You desperately create a newsletter campaign to try to boost your readership. And at the same time, it just hits you that you’ve got a meeting with the leadership team in a week to present your content marketing program.

What KPIs and objectives should you use? You start pulling together stats on the number of impressions, likes and anything else that might help prove the ROI of your content marketing efforts…

This may sound like an exaggeration to some, but nearly 70% of marketers say their organizations do not have a documented content marketing strategy, and more than half of marketers are unclear or unsure about what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like.

Even with the best technologies, analytics and teams of writers, editors and graphic designers, if your brand is publishing without purpose and planning, your content marketing efforts will not be successful. Publishing just for the sake of publishing is simply not effective content marketing.

If you are looking to develop or improve your content marketing programs, here are some best practices from Contently to help you get started.

Step 1: Define Your Objectives And KPIs

Without clear goals and metrics to measure success, you cannot fully evaluate and improve your content marketing efforts over time.

Leading marketing organizations go beyond vanity metrics such as likes and standard metrics like leads and sales, they look at metrics that measure how their marketing efforts are developing deeper relationships with customers and impacting overall business objectives, such as cost savings, productivity improvement and risk management.

Bottom line: are you reaching, engaging and converting new customers with your content marketing program? And do you know how to measure it?

Step 2: Define Audience And Channels

The rise of social media has made consumers more segmented across the web, with their attention split across multiple channels that fit their media preferences and needs.

To be able to capture and earn consumer attention, you need to find out where your target audience is spending their time. And since each platform serves a unique audience base, you also need to identify the content that caters to that specific group.

To do so, you need to go beyond traditional demographics like age, geography and income, and ask yourself what sort of challenges, motivators and behaviors individuals in your target audience have in common.

The answers to these questions will provide insights into your target audience’s pain points and triggers, which can inspire different content ideas and formats to reach and engage each audience group.

Step 3: Map To Sales Funnel

Now that you have your consumers’ pain points, motivation drivers and triggers identified, the next step is to map them to each stage of the buyer journey against the sales funnel. Here’s an example from Contently below:

Step 4: Determine Your Digital Channel Strategy

With an ever-growing number of social media channels and platforms, you want to find out where your target consumers already spend time to research and find information related to your product and industry.

Once you have your list, narrow down to ones that are high traffic, popular sites where you think prospects may be receptive to your brand message. You will also want to use web analytics to find out which sources and channels your audience comes from, and identify the content formats that resonate with the audience for each channel.

As well, find out where your prospects and competitors share content through traffic and referral data sites like Alexa as well as content marketing tools like BuzzSumo.

Read More: How To Identify The Right Digital Marketing Channels For Your Content

Step 5: Identify Market Opportunity

Now that you have developed your channel strategy, what content should you create for these platforms? To identify your content marketing opportunities, you want to find out what your competitors are publishing and not publishing – the latter would be opportunities for you to leverage and stand out from your competition.

Look at which customer pain points you can help solve through your content. Then develop your own unique voice and perspective that you want your brand to be identified with. Seek to add original insights and value to your readers.

Here are a couple more ways to help you beat your competition at content marketing.

Step 6: Evaluate Existing Resources And Processes

Your content marketing efforts won’t be successful if you don’t have the appropriate resources and processes to support them.

Marketers must not only evaluate their existing budget, content, technology and headcount, but to also conduct an “honest assessment of how all of an organization’s content resources fit together, and where additional talent, technology and processes are needed.”

Below is a list of questions to support you with this evaluation process.

Step 7: Create Your Content Marketing Plan

Now that you’re ready to start developing your content plan, here’s what your plan should include:

  • Input from Step #1-6: your content objectives, KPIs, audience definition, channels strategy, market opportunity, resources and processes
  • Content to create
  • Channels through which you will engage your audience with your content
  • Contributors who will create content
  • Workflow to create, produce, approve and publish content

With the content that will be created, you want to include your content topics, categories and subcategories, formats, frequency, production budget and share of overall content production. Here’s a sample template from Contently:

You’ll also want to turn this into an editorial calendar so you can visually see how all your content pieces map out.

The next step is to strategize how content will be distributed through various channels, both owned and paid platforms. You will also want to outline how all internal teams can leverage the content that will be created, to identify collaboration opportunities and to also highlight how your content adds value to your organization.

Here’s an example of what this may look like (excluding internal teams):

To help you stay on top of all your content contributors, topics, formats and budget, you’ll want to document all these items down so you can track everything.

And finally, here’s a template example from Contently on how you could outline the workflow and process through which content is created, produced, approved and published.

Step 8: Test, Evaluate And Optimize

Developing and executing your content plan is half the battle, you’ll also need to evaluate and optimize your strategy to continue improving your content marketing programs.

To do so, you want to evaluate the performance of your content based on each topic or format, the channels that engage your audience most deeply, and the content contributors who deliver the strongest results against your KPIs.

When you track this data on an ongoing basis, you’ll be able to identify which types of content are working (or not working), which channels drive the greatest ROI to prioritize for future content distribution, and which contributors to recognize and reward or require further coaching and support to deliver content that will best engage your audience.

By repeating this process regularly, you can truly create, execute and optimize your content marketing programs for success, delivering compelling content that reaches, engages and converts your target consumers.

What other tips or best practices have helped you develop a successful content marketing program? Please share your ideas below!

And if you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content that’s published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service. Or, set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books!

3 thoughts on “8 Steps to a Successful Content Marketing Program

  1. Jack

    Thanks. Very useful.

  2. Roger C. Parker

    Dear Michael:
    This is a very important piece; I’m glad Patrick Cole linked it from his equally important post today, HOW TO INCREASE YOUR AUTHORITY WITH EVERGREEN CONTENT.

    I must have missed it he first time around.

    What I like about this post is the way you shared the steps using a combination of text and large, easy to understand, graphics. Anyone looking for a detailed, yet simple, overview of the content marketing process can benefit from it–whether they’re newcomers or experienced content marketers looking for a refresh.

    Evergreen at its best, would make a great PDF.

    Best wishes, Roger

  3. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Roger, I am looking into article-to-pdf options. I’ve heard this from a bunch of folks.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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